If you think a car accident and multiple traumatic injuries were going to stop Jason Hardrath, you are severely mistaken. When the doctor delivered the news that his love for physical activity and movement needed to be let go, Hardrath hit back. “I remember just my spirit sinking, but then in the next moment, that spirit of defiance popping up where it’s like, you don’t know me – just you wait. You don’t know what I’m willing to do to achieve what I want to achieve.”
That type of mindset fairs well for Hardrath, a schoolteacher in Oregon with a passion for adrenaline, who also happens to be the first person to achieve the 100 Fastest Known Times (FKTs) – speed records set on well-known, established routes. For Hardrath, that was 100 of Washington’s highest peaks.
It started with getting into hiking and climbing hills after his accident. “Hills led to mountains. Pretty soon I’m climbing big mountains instead of small mountains,” reflects Hardrath. The technical aspect of climbing mountains, encompassing skills like rock climbing, rope and safety, fitness and strength, is when Hardrath discovered the world of FKTs. “It was just kind of this realization. This is what I’m doing every weekend anyways … I might as well make it into something, like be part of a community and contribute and break some records and add some new routes. I already love this, so why not?”
Understandably, the journey to get to 100 FKTs and come back from injuries was not easy. “I think to start simply, it was an agreement … it wasn’t just a spirit of defiance,” explains Hardrath. “There was an underlying agreement … I’m not going to stop pushing forward until I find myself doing some version of what I love … and that was the agreement, that was the framework, that was the intention that I set.”
A quote from his youth mentor has also stuck with Hardrath throughout the years – “Human beings are like a tube of toothpaste. You find out what’s truly inside when they get squeezed,” recalls Hardrath. “Anybody can be generous when everything’s going right. Why I’m here is to see what there is to be learned in this moment about myself and about how I can be a better person.”
When he’s not crushing peaks and FKTs, Hardrath brings his life experience to the classroom. “I want to teach what I love. And so, for me, going out and doing these exploits and doing these personal tests feeds right back into my teaching. The whole point of going out and testing yourself isn’t just for yourself. It’s so that you have something to offer when you come back … and as a schoolteacher, [it] gives me a constant opportunity to share those stories and the wisdoms and the perspectives with my students.”
Hardrath’s resiliency, drive and outlook on life is mirrored in his advice to the next generation of athletes – “One, make eight-year-old you proud, aim in a way that would make eight-year-old you, that kid that loved running around on the playground or whatever he or she loved doing, make that little kid proud with what you’re aiming and who you’re going to become with what you’re going to put effort into. And two, aim in such a way that 80-year-old is going to be happy and not have regrets with how you spent the time. If you can find a process that leads to those two things, you’ve got it.”
Tune in to Episode #129 of The Athletes Podcast to hear more about Jason Hardrath’s journey to 100 peaks, how he prepares and stays fueled, the importance of having a strong support system, and one of his best climbing stories!